Fostering a good parent-child relationship is as important, if not more important, than tending to the practicalities of parenting. Attachment Theory has taught us that this relationship is the cornerstone of the child’s personality. The originators of the theory hypothesised that a child would develop the following three core skills in a secure attachment relationship with its primary carer. The first of these is the ability for a child to be in control of their own feelings. They termed this emotional regulation. The second is self-reliance or a sense of independence. The third is social competence or an ability to manage relationships and in particular, peer relationships. (I will return to these in a future blog post).
It is therefore important that the relationship between a carer and a child fosters development of these skills. We also know from the theory that personality formed in infanthood, typically endures into adulthood. Another significant feature of this relationship is that patterns of parent-child communication developed in the early years of one generation tend to be passed down unchanged to the next generation. (This is another subject I will return to in another blog post).
So given the primacy of this relationship here are a few suggestions of what a parent can do when they have a disagreement with their child.
- The first thing to do is to seek to repair the relationship quickly. Children need to learn that when relationships break down, they can be repaired. By resolving a difficult situation, you are modelling to them that relationships matter and that they need to be rectified when they go wrong.
- Do not bring up past misdemeanours. Children are always learning how best to do things and this takes time. Reminding a child of his past failings does not increase his self-esteem or level of competency.
- When you see the child trying to resolve a situation with a sibling/friend, comment positively on it afterwards. Remember to reward effort not excellence. The child is learning and a positive comment from you will increase his self-esteem, make him more self-reliant and competent in negotiating relationships for the future.
- Remember your emotions are your own responsibility, not your child’s. Therefore, it is important when negotiating a disagreement that you are in control of your own. However, you are also responsible for helping your child to control/regulate his emotions. This is done by remaining calm and explaining to him what has gone wrong and how the situation needs to be rectified. Emotional regulation is a skill and a process that children learn that takes time.
- The child does not always have to like the solution, but you are the adult and you make the decisions based on what you believe to be the right thing to do.
A final point to bear in mind is that creating a good relationship takes time and persistence which in the long run will make a difference.
If you have any thoughts on the above, please share them in the comments.